I thought divorce mediation was supposed to be less stressful than lawyering up. My wife’s lawyer gave her three names of mediators for us to talk to. I have found the whole process of even having a conversation with these mediators and their assistants ridiculously cumbersome and complicated.
All three mediators have office staff that should be fired. Their staffs are incapable of providing basic information. They miss-schedule meetings. They promise to follow up calls that do not occur. The entire process has been frustrating and very stressful.
A year ago I spoke to a law practice that does nothing but mediation and had really liked what I heard. They seemed respectful and thoughtful. I had assumed wrongly that other mediators would work the same way. We would pick a mediator and we would both work with that mediator until we come to an agreement. The final agreement would be run by our lawyers for a final review. We might reach out to our lawyers for questions but the bulk of the work would be done with the mediator. Apparently, everybody works differently.
I have spent the last two weeks reaching out to the three lawyers for mediation that my wife’s lawyer recommended. All three include mediation as part of their practice, but they also do litigation as the core of their work.
The first lawyer called me back because the message I had left with her admin did not make sense to her. I said that I wanted to schedule an introductory meeting to understand how she worked, understand her process, and see if we were a fit. She said discussing ‘process’ was a waste of time. Her hourly rate was too expensive to waste a meeting on discussing ‘process’.
Every time she said the word ‘process’ she sounded like she was spitting out a dirty word. She said she would be happy to schedule a short call for us to understand how she works, but then she would schedule a two-hour meeting and get started. This lawyer was fast-talking, driven and must have said two or three times that her hourly rate was too high to waste time talking about ‘process’. Her office staff in the prior calls also repeatedly mentioned her hourly rate. She was a complete turn-off.
The second lawyer’s office told me that he would not talk to us because we had already retained legal counsel. My lawyer or my wife’s lawyer had to call and give him the OK to talk to us. I had my lawyer make that call, which I will get billed for. My lawyer emailed me that he had called and the other lawyer’s office would call me the next day. They did not call. I have since called twice. Each time I call, his office acts like they have never heard of me. I have to restate who I am, confirm that my lawyer has already called and that their office has run a conflict of interest check.
Once we got through all the hurdles of who I was and what has already occurred, I learned that he will be in court all this week and most of next week. They will pass on my message to him and he will get back to me when he can. I am not holding my breath waiting for his call.
I finally spoke to the last lawyer yesterday after a few false starts. I had missed our first call and she never had confirmed our second call in her calendar. We finally connected. She did mostly litigation but did at least one mediation a month—not a good sign. She told me that her approach would be to put my wife with her lawyer in one room, put me with my lawyer in another room and she would conduct shuttle diplomacy until the case is mediated. That sounded awful. It did not sound like respectful mediation, although it was probably a quicker way to get to a resolution.
So now I am back to the mediation practice I talked to a year ago that I really liked. But I will need to get my wife on the same page. Her lawyer gave her three names for mediation, which I have just described, and which I am finding unacceptable. I suspect that suggesting a completely different mediation group will be difficult to get my wife to agree with. More to come.